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Experience Banks

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I've decided to go with the old-school style character development of earning experience and then spending it on whatever skills you want, rather than the Elder Scrolls style of becoming better at skills by performing them. My reason for choosing it is because I've always found both systems equally enjoyable for single player games, and the experience spending design will be much easier for me to develop and balance. It's also quite a lot more safe from exploitation. It may not be as realistic, but that has never caused any problems for me in other games. Anyway, I've been considering implementing something that would nudge that design slightly closer to the other. Rather than earning generic experience that can be spent everywhere, characters could earn experience in specific categories. The categories could be divided a number of ways.. + Logical (intelligence-based stats) + Empathic (NPC-interaction stats) + Physical (body stats) + Creative (crafting/inventive stats) + etc or maybe + Ranged (all stats that can be used during ranged combat) + Melee (all stats used here - some can overlap) + Dialog (similar to empathic) + Computers (hacking stats) + etc Then there could be several ways to allow spending that experience. It could be prevented from being spent anywhere except it's own category. Or it could be allowed to be spent anywhere, but a penalty would be inflicted when it's spent outside of it's category. I'm sure other games have done similar things, and I'm not trying to be original. I'm looking for opinions. Worst effect of the system that I can imagine is the player having to keep track of several different banks of experience. What do you think?

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So basically, it's a skill based system where you earn transferable skill points in the catagory that skill/stat follows under rather then in the skill itself.

It could work I suppose. Will you "level up" in a catagory or do you earns points to spend once you gain a set amount of experince.

What could work for transfering is a node tree connecting all the skills and stats. Transfering points across a node either divides (black) or multiplies (white) them by 2.

So, lets say on the tree you have:

Intellegence WB Computers

This would mean that 1 Point of intellegence can be changed 2 points of computers. OR 2 points of Computers can be changed to 1 point of Intellegance.

Like wise if there 2 black nodes between Intellegence and Strength you would have to transfer 8 points from computers to increase your strength by 1.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
So basically, it's a skill based system where you earn transferable skill points in the catagory that skill/stat follows under rather then in the skill itself.

That summed it up better than I did.

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Will you "level up" in a catagory or do you earns points to spend once you gain a set amount of experince.

I was thinking points. But the result is pretty much the same. Points are essentially small levels.

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So, lets say on the tree you have:

Intellegence WB Computers

This would mean that 1 Point of intellegence can be changed 2 points of computers. OR 2 points of Computers can be changed to 1 point of Intellegance.

That's an interesting concept. But the two lists I exampled in the original post would have been exclusive. There wouldn't be both a logical and computers category. Just one or the other. There would likely only be about 4 or 5 categories, with about 3-6 stats in each. I haven't actually tried to divide them yet, so those are just random guesses.

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Like wise if there 2 black nodes between Intellegence and Strength you would have to transfer 8 points from computers to increase your strength by 1.

That sounds more like what I was considering. But nearly all of the categories would highly contrast all other categories. So the transfer cost from one to another would likely always be about the same.

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It seems fine to me, as long as there aren't too many categories. 3 to 8 seems good. The only danger is that if some skills are harder to gain experience in than others, it may effectively act as a penalty across the whole category rather than just with that skill.

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Fable did something similar, using 3 categories.

It did do something a little different, though, in that it had a 4th section of "general" experience in addition to the categorical experience. I mention it because it leads to a potential problem when I think about what would happen if the general category wasnt there.

Namely, when you have only specialised categories, you need to be careful that a character doesnt get railroaded into a specific character build based on their early choices. ie, in a system if you improve in a specific area, you run the risk of not being able to safely use any other skills when facing increasingly tough enemies, which leads to only aquiring more experience in that one skill set... a vicious cycle.

Fable bypassed it by including additional general experience, the Elder Scrolls games offset it by also levelling stats as well as skills, which assist in general, etc.

Just something to keep in mind... The idea in general sounds pretty good to me.

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Original post by Kylotan
The only danger is that if some skills are harder to gain experience in than others, it may effectively act as a penalty across the whole category rather than just with that skill.

That's something I hadn't considered. What would you suggest for compensating? Varying the individual point cost to upgrade each skill? Or perhaps giving each individual skill a different max limit, giving it more steps to reach the top? Or maybe the skill effects on gameplay could just be balanced enough to entirely avoid the need to balance the stats.

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Original post by caffiene
Namely, when you have only specialised categories, you need to be careful that a character doesnt get railroaded into a specific character build based on their early choices. ie, in a system if you improve in a specific area, you run the risk of not being able to safely use any other skills when facing increasingly tough enemies, which leads to only aquiring more experience in that one skill set... a vicious cycle.

If I understand you correctly, that would only happen if the game inflicted penalties on learning new things because you've mastered old things. Is that what you mean? That's usually a product of level-based systems.

In the game I'm developing, experience is earned at the same rate, and you are awarded the same number of points to spend, regardless of how skilled you are. Higher levels of skills would just cost more and more to upgrade. Mastering certain skills would still come at the cost of leaving other skills low, but not nearly as much of the cost as most level-based systems.

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I think what he's talking about is that if a player/character starts off using his physical skills in the very beginning, he won't (might not) be able to raise his mental skills, because he can't do much damage or be very effective with them. Since enemies, I assume, get more dangerous throughout the course of play, if a character tries to use his very unleveled skills, he'll have to fall back on his more mastered ones, hence gaining more experience in his physical stat, and very little in his magical/mental one. This cycles around as the further his mental skills lag behind, the more he falls onto his physical skills, and hence he is "railroaded" into being a physical character. The introduction of a general bank alleviates this problem immensely, as a player is able to put both their mental and general experience (general is earned alongside physical) into mental, allows them to raise it higher, more effectively, and more efficiently. But your idea of allowing a player to send physical experience into the mental bank does this, also, just make sure the cost of making this move isn't so harsh as it will handicap a player significantly.

Hope that cleared things up (and correctly expanded what he was trying to say)

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Original post by Dekasa
I think what he's talking about is that if a player/character starts off using his physical skills in the very beginning, he won't (might not) be able to raise his mental skills, because he can't do much damage or be very effective with them.

Ahh, I see. Can't earn mental experience because only physical combat skills are high enough to fight the current bad guys with. That's a good point, and something to keep in mind.

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Since enemies, I assume, get more dangerous throughout the course of play, if a character tries to use his very unleveled skills, he'll have to fall back on his more mastered ones, hence gaining more experience in his physical stat, and very little in his magical/mental one.

There are a few things that should keep my game mostly safe from it.

- It's open-ended.

- No skills are ever inhumanly pathetic for the player. He starts the game with realistic human-level abilities.

- Enemy stats won't vary as much as typical games. To become tougher, NPCs will increase their strategy, armor, and weapons.

- It's the future. There are gadgets, impants, and weaponry that can compensate for any weakness. You just need money. I guess that makes money a bit like a general bank.

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Hope that cleared things up (and correctly expanded what he was trying to say)

I'm pretty sure that was the point. Thanks for clearing it up for me.

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I personally wouldn't worry too much about over specialisation in a non-class-based game, whether you allow the player to choose what to level, or this is done as a result of their actions, your player will relatively quickly decide what type of gameplay they prefer. The fact that the system even allows for this is in some ways a huge advantage over class based games, where the player from the get go must decide the ultimate fate of their character. I personally have often had to restart class based games because I chose a class I thought I would love to play, but found it to be boring or frustrating.

The greatest advantage of a skill system that evolves in accordance to your actions is that it will generally create a character you like to play, however this character may in the end-game be weak due to the build, which is a huge problem. So balancing becomes the greatest issue here, you want to promote a certain degree of specialisation to avoid everyone firing up on the cheap skills and being overpowered as a result of this, yet you don't want to penalise a player because their style may be slightly more diverse than 'run away while throwing fireballs' or 'stand there like a man and hit him while he hits you'. However this is a bit off topic as you don't intend to use this system, so getting back on topic:

I like the concept of more specified experience, allowing you to create your character yourself, but restricting use of experience to within fields appropriate to where you gained experience. I also think that using the players money pool as a form of general 'experience' through the use of cybernetic modifications and what not is a good idea. but again, you have to be careful to balance this, as the greatest problem with general experience in fable was that it didn't take all too much ingenuity and effort to get a ridiculous amount of general experience. This essentially allowed you to become William Wallace, with the skill of Robin Hood with a bow, and magical abilities that would put both merlin and gandalf to shame, allowing you to kill the final boss (yes...a dragon -__-) in about 20 seconds.

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Original post by firemonk3y
I personally wouldn't worry too much about over specialisation in a non-class-based game, whether you allow the player to choose what to level, or this is done as a result of their actions, your player will relatively quickly decide what type of gameplay they prefer. The fact that the system even allows for this is in some ways a huge advantage over class based games, where the player from the get go must decide the ultimate fate of their character. I personally have often had to restart class based games because I chose a class I thought I would love to play, but found it to be boring or frustrating.

This has less to do with class vs classless and more to do with whether you're letting everyone learn everything. If you took away the level limit in DnD Newish Edition, you could just pick a different class if your first choice didn't suit you. It'd stay be a class-based game. While in a classless game with a level-cap (such as the first Fallout), you can still mess up your character in the beginning and be unable to make up for it (you won't be able to max that one skill because you put your points in something somewhat useless earlier).

The examples are a bit off, but the point would still hold if you ignored the level 1 and 21+ special treatment in DnD and the almost-like-designing-your-own-class when you create your character in Fallout.
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The greatest advantage of a skill system that evolves in accordance to your actions is that it will generally create a character you like to play [...]

That's a bit hit and miss. Yes, you can pick up a sword and stab things with swords and become good at swording. On the other hand, once you're good at swording, if you decide you'd like to throw rocks at things, to become a decent rock-thrower you'll be stuck choosing the least effective way of dealing with enemies until you're good at throwing. Rather than keeping swording things and putting your experience towards throwing. You'll run into much the same problem if the skills aren't perfectly balanced (because one skill is superior to another, or because situations where one is useful are more common that ones where another is), and you'll have to make "bad" choices every so often so that certain skills keep up with the others.

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